Two concerts

2008-09-02 00:00

LAST weekend saw two concerts, one in Durban and one in Pietermaritzburg, each designed to mark the end of Women’s Month. Neither attracted anything like the attendance hoped for or expected, but there the similarity seems to end. It is instructive to look at the arrangements for each in more detail.

Only 1 000 of the expected 40 000 turned up for the Wonderful Women Gathering at Durban’s Absa Stadium. That was not the fault of the organisers who had been thorough in their preparations, putting all their cards on the table. They had sought and obtained extensive coverage in the media, they had motivated the MEC for Finance Zweli Mkhize to sponsor the event to the tune of R500 000 and they had gained a line-up of impressive speakers — Archbishop Desmond Tutu (in a recorded message) and acclaimed storyteller Gcina Mhlope, for instance, together with top South African band Freshlyground.

So although the attendance was disappointing, the event was not a failure. The organisers got their message across — that South Africa is a country that needs to be celebrated — and laid a foundation for further growth.

By contrast “failure” is a word that should be applied to the Women’s Month concert organised by Ibhubesi Business Enterprises, co-owned by the former head of the KwaZulu-Natal Agriculture Department Dr Jabulani Mjwara and his erstwhile secretary Nontokhozo Mathonsi. The organisation of the event was shambolic, with no publicity and confusion as to which bands were playing. Scheduled to start at 2 pm, the first act was eventually performed only at 7 pm and by 9 pm no other band had taken the stage. Only 400 people turned up.

What is of concern is that the Msundusi Municipally sponsored the event to the tune of R250 000. Alarm bells should have rung at the start with Ibhubesi’s application for funding on a document without a letterhead and with office contact details written in by hand.

On what criterion is municipal sponsorship granted? At best this event was well-meant but thoroughly unprofessional; at worst it was a shady attempt to raise funds by an organisation that has got other municipal contracts by questionable means. There needs to be far greater scrutiny of similar appeals before ratepayers’ money is doled out.

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